ST. LOUIS (AP) – Xavier coach Chris Mack has been around basketball long enough that he has developed a feeling call it intuition when it comes to whether buzzer-beating shots have beaten the buzzer.
He never wished it was more wrong than Sunday night.
After his second-seeded Musketeers squandered a nine-point lead in the closing minutes, Mack watched as Bronson Koenig took an inbounds pass and buried a 3-pointer on the final play of the game to give Wisconsin a 66-63 victory and a spot in the Sweet 16.
“I knew it was good,” Mack said later, his voice strained. “It’s just heartbreaking.”
Koenig’s winning 3-pointer capped a furious finish that began when the sharpshooter hit another 3 from well beyond the arc to tie it at 63 with 11.7 seconds left.
Edmond Sumner brought the ball up court for Xavier (28-6), and then drove to the basket, running over the Badgers’ Zak Showalter and getting called for an offensive foul with 4.3 seconds to go.
No. 7 seed Wisconsin (22-12) called timeout after crossing half court and coach Greg Gard drew up a play for his best outside shooter. Koenig did the rest to keep the Badgers alive in the NCAA Tournament.
They’ll play sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Friday in Philadelphia.
“I knew it was going in before it even left my hand. That’s a shot I practice a lot pregame,” said Koenig, who didn’t hit a 3-pointer in a first-round win over Pittsburgh, but hit six of them and finished with 20 points against Xavier. “I just let it fly and I knew it was going in.”
Ethan Happ added 18 points and Vitto Brown finished with 12 for Wisconsin.
Remy Abell and Jalen Reynolds had 13 points apiece and Sumner scored 11 for Xavier, which had a 58-49 lead with just over 6 minutes left.
“It’s as low as it gets. The season is over,” Reynolds said. “It’s just the worst feeling.”
The game lived up to its rough-and-tumble billing, the pendulum swinging wildly in the first half.
The Badgers, who struggled to score 16 points by halftime in their 47-43 win over the Panthers, raced out to a 17-8 lead before Xavier could blink. But the 1-3-1 zone of the Musketeers eventually slowed them down, and the Big East runner-ups countered with a 21-8 run of their own.
They led 33-30 at halftime in an arena heavily tilted toward Badger fans.
The lead changed hands six times in the early minutes of the second half before the Musketeers began to assert themselves, and Abell knocked down a 3 to give Xavier a 49-47 lead.
Cheered on by super-fan Bill Murray, the actor and comedian whose son Luke is an assistant on Chris Mack’s staff, the Musketeers eventually pushed their lead to 58-49 their biggest of the game.
The Badgers weren’t done, though. They never seem to be this time of year.
Seeking a third straight trip to the Final Four, the Badgers quickly cut into their deficit. Koenig hit a pair of foul shots, and then a strip-steal turned into a layup for Showalter. Hill hit another shot to make it 61-57 at the under-4 minute timeout.
The Badgers didn’t stop coming back until the final shot of the game.
“This group just would not quit, would not give in,” Gard said. “I can’t be more proud of a group of young men that have withstood every challenge that’s come at them, every adversity.”
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